Archive for January, 2009

High on leverage

Baseball-Reference tracks high leverage hitting splits. The high leverage concept is based on work by Tom Tango, which is described here. Baseball-Reference suggests that high leverage plays account for about 20% of all plays.

Overall in 2008, Phillies hitters got 6,273 plate appearances in which they hit 255/332/438. Of those, 1,230 plate appearances were tagged as high leverage. In those plate appearances, the Phils as a team hit 247/332/423. A tiny bit worse, but about the same.

Here’s what key Phillies hitters did in high leverage situations in 2008, ranked by OPS:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Burrell 132 280 379 607 986
Dobbs 59 358 407 547 954
Howard 152 265 342 545 888
Feliz 92 291 378 506 884
Werth 102 276 373 448 821
Rollins 104 258 343 404 748
Utley 128 215 315 402 717
Victorino 106 240 305 396 701
Taguchi 19 250 333 313 646
Ruiz 72 238 300 333 633
Coste 74 215 268 323 591
Bruntlett 54 191 269 255 525
Jenkins 62 176 290 216 506

If you compare the player’s OPS in high leverage situations with their OPS overall for the year, there are six players whose OPS in high leverage situations were better than their OPS for the year:

Player High
Leverage OPS
OPS for
Season
Feliz 884 705
Dobbs 954 824
Burrell 986 875
Taguchi 646 580
Ruiz 633 620
Howard 888 881

And seven players from the group whose OPS overall for the year was better than their OPS in high leverage situations:

Player High
Leverage OPS
OPS for
Season
Rollins 748 786
Werth 821 861
Bruntlett 525 594
Victorino 701 799
Coste 591 748
Jenkins 506 694
Utley 717 915

The players at the top of that list have small differences between their OPS in high leverage situations and their OPS overall for the year. Rollins and Werth, for example, have very similar numbers compared to their overall OPS for the year. At the bottom of the list, Utley had a huge difference, posting a .717 OPS in high leverage situations compared to a .915 OPS overall.

Similarly, if you look at the late and close splits for the guys at the bottom of that list, Utley, Coste and Jenkins, the numbers are pretty ugly. For the guys at the top of the list, Feliz, Dobbs and Burrell, the numbers are much better. Late and close plate appearances are ones that come in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.

 
Late and close
Player PA AVG OBP SLG
Feliz 89 313 368 575
Dobbs 56 380 446 560
Burrell 111 295 441 636
Coste 69 220 288 271
Jenkins 63 148 270 204
Utley 117 221 353 347

Article about the outlook for the pen.

This article suggests that Dobbs could fill in at second if Utley doesn’t start the year. That actually seems like a fine idea. A Bruntlett/Dobbs platoon at second would put up pretty nice numbers offensively, the problem being that Dobbs can’t play both second and third at the same time against a righty.

Ad: Ticketcity has 2009 Phillies tickets.


Who’s up?

As a team in 2008 the Phillies got 6,273 plate appearances. Of those, 3,170, about 50.5%, came with the score of the game within one run. As a team they also got 780 of their plate appearances, 12.4%, when the margin of the game was more than four runs.

Not all of the players got the same percentage of their plate appearances when the game was close and when it wasn’t. These are the Phillies who got the highest percentage of their plate appearances with the game within one run — for each player it lists their plate appearances when the game was within a run, their total plate appearances for the year and the percentage of their plate appearances that came when the game was within a run:

 
Within one run
Player PA TPA % of PA
Utley 389 707 55.0
Rollins 337 625 53.9
Werth 256 482 53.1
Victorino 328 627 52.3
Bruntlett 123 238 51.7
Howard 360 700 51.4
Burrell 330 645 51.2
       
Team total 3170 6273 50.5
       
Jenkins 155 322 48.1
Feliz 220 463 47.5
Ruiz 176 373 47.2
Coste 136 305 44.6
Dobbs 101 240 42.1
Taguchi 41 103 39.8

This list obviously reflects who is starting games, but Bruntlett is the guy who sticks out, getting more of his plate appearances than the team average with the game close. This is no doubt partly the result of all the time he got in left, relieving Burrell in close games. In the 123 plate appearances that Bruntlett got with the game within one run, he hit 207/273/297.

And here’s how many plate appearances hitters got when the margin of the game was more than four runs, with the players that got the highest percentage of their plate appearances in games that were not close at the top:

 
Margin > 4 runs
Player PA TPA % of PA
Taguchi 23 103 22.3
Dobbs 40 240 16.7
Coste 48 305 15.7
Bruntlett 35 238 14.7
Jenkins 44 322 13.7
Feliz 59 463 12.7
Victorino 78 627 12.4
       
Team total 780 6273 12.4
       
Howard 85 700 12.1
Ruiz 44 373 11.8
Burrell 75 645 11.6
Utley 79 707 11.2
Rollins 69 625 11.0
Werth 47 482 9.8

Looking at both charts, Dobbs and Coste both get a higher percentage than average of their plate appearances in games that are not close and a lower percentage than average in games that are within a run. Coste’s splits from 2008 based on the score of the game were remarkable. When the margin of the game was more than four runs, he hit 432/479/886, going 19-for-44 with five doubles and five home runs. In his 257 other plate appearances, he hit 230/295/335. Over his career, he’s hit 410/442/672 in 129 plate appearances when the margin is more than four runs and 257/313/392 in his 526 other plate appearances.

I do think it’s unfortunate that a relatively high percentage of Dobbs’ plate appearances came with the score of the game lopsided. He was the opposite of Coste in ’08, pounding the ball to a 326/365/540 line in his 200 plate appearances when the game was within four runs and hitting just 179/175/256 in his 40 plate appearances when the margin was four runs or more.

Bruntlett seems to be present in both extremes, getting higher than average percentages of his plate appearances both in blowouts and games that are within a run, which suggests he’s getting lower than average percentages of his plate appearances in the situations in-between.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged a meeting between Shane Victorino and a fan.

Geoff Jenkins will host a poker event to benefit Jamie Moyer’s foundation.

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Then again, maybe it is how you start

The Phillies started different players at third base and catcher regularly in 2008. Here is a look at the team’s record in games where they started Feliz or Dobbs at third, remembering that the Phillies went 92-70 overall, which is a .568 winning percentage:

Player GS at 3b W-L PCT
Pedro Feliz 106 63-43 .594
Greg Dobbs 42 21-21 .500

Eric Bruntlett started 13 games at third for the Phils in ’08. The team went 7-6 in those games. Mike Cervenak started the last game of the year at third for the Phils, which the team won.

Except for the last game of the year, which was caught by Lou Marson, Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste split the catching starts in 2008. Ruiz got 92 and Coste 69:

Player GS at C W-L PCT
Carlos Ruiz 92 55-37 .598
Chris Coste 69 36-33 .522

Coste and Ruiz shared the starts with Rod Barajas in 2007 as well, and again the Phillies played to their best winning percentage with Ruiz behind the plate (in ’07 the Phillies went 89-73, which is a .549 winning percentage):

Player GS at C W-L PCT
Carlos Ruiz 100 58-42 .580
Rod Barajas 37 17-20 .459
Chris Coste 25 14-11 .560

Over the last two years, the Phillies are 113-79 (.589 winning percentage) in the games that Ruiz started at catcher and 68-64 (.515) in the games someone else started at catcher.

In all three examples, Feliz in ’08, Ruiz in ’08 and Ruiz in ’07, the team’s winning percentage when starting the better defensive player is better than the team’s winning percentage overall for the season. This could be caused by a whole lot of things other than Pedro Feliz or Carlos Ruiz making the Phillies win when they start. For example, to generalize, I think it’s safe to say that Charlie Manuel starts his better defensive players in games that are started by his better starting pitchers. Ruiz, for example, caught 26 of Hamels’ 33 starts in ’08 and 19 of his 28 starts in 2007. At the same time, the Phillies went 19-14 in the 33 games that Hamels started in 2008. That’s a .576 winning percentage, worse than the .598 winning percentage that the Phillies posted overall in the games started by Ruiz. In ’07, the Phils went 19-9 in the 28 games started by Hamels, a .679 winning percentage that was better than the .580 in the games started by Ruiz.

To speculate further, another factor is surely that Manuel considers Feliz and Ruiz his best players at the position and puts them into games he sees as the ones the Phillies need to win. For that reason, it may be that the presence of Feliz or Ruiz in the lineup reflects that the lineup is stronger overall, because Manuel chose to play what he saw as he best players at all positions and not just third and catcher, rather than cause the lineup to be stronger. Still, that’s a whole lot of wins over the last two years in games that Ruiz started.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that Ruiz’s catching duties actually shrunk slightly last year for the Phils, both in terms of the number of games he started (92 down from 100) and the number of innings he caught (828 down from 912 2/3).

Interview with Charlie Manuel at Beerleaguer.

This article lists Nomar Garciaparra, Ty Wigginton, Moises Alou, Rich Aurilia, Mark Grudzielanek and Kevin Millar as the right-handed hitters the Phillies are interested in. Wigginton would be the prize of that group by a lot and a fantastic fit with the needs of the team. This says that the Orioles are interested in Wigginton, but he wants a two-year deal and Baltimore would prefer to give him one year.


Better halves

Looking back to last week’s post about the areas where the Phillies improved their pitching last season compared to 2007, one of the areas of improvement is what they did as a group before the All-Star break.

This does not come at as a big shock considering that, in 2007, the Phillies were simply miserable before the All-Star break. It left huge room for improvement and the Phillies improved hugely. In ’07, the Phils had the worst pitching in the National League in the first half the of the year. They went into the break with a 4.91 ERA (16th in the NL), having allowed 463 runs (16th) and 432 earned runs (16th). Their ratio as a team was 1.46, which was second-worst in the league behind the Fish.

Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia were the biggest culprits in the miserable first half for the Phils in ’07. Eaton made 18 starts in which he threw to a 5.69 ERA with a 1.50 ratio. Garcia tossed to a 5.90 ERA in 11 starts with a 1.60 ratio. That duo can’t take all the blame, though, as the pen was bounced around pretty hard in the first half of ’07 as well.

Here’s what Phillies’ starters and relievers have done before and after the All-Star break in the last two years:

 
Before All-Star break

After All-Star break
  ERA Ratio ERA Ratio
2007 Starters 4.99 1.40 4.80 1.45
2007 Pen 4.85 1.57 4.15 1.42
2008 Starters 4.48 1.38 3.84 1.31
2008 Pen 2.71 1.31 3.94 1.48

In 2008, the Phils put up a fourth-best 3.90 ERA in the NL before the All-Star break, allowing 403 runs, which was also the fourth-best. The starters were better, but not by as much as you might think. Hamels and Moyer both had nice first halves, Hamels made 20 starts and threw to a 3.15 ERA and Moyer made 19 and threw to a 3.95 ERA. But Kendrick was off from his ’07 pace, putting up a 4.47 ERA in his 19 starts before the All-Star game. And despite all the room for improvement that Garcia and Eaton had left from the year before, the Phillies starters didn’t exactly capitalize. Myers struggled terribly in his return to the rotation, making 17 starts with a 5.84 ERA and a 1.56 ratio. Eaton was awful again: 19 first half starts, a 5.71 ERA and a 1.61 ratio.

So while a miserable first half from the Phillies starters opened the door for improvement before the break in 2008, it was largely an outstanding performance by the bullpen in the first half of last season that was responsible for the difference between what the staff did in the two seasons.

Finally, I think it’s also interesting to note the significant drop off of the bullpen performance in the second half of the season in 2008. As a group they pitched about as well as they did in the second half of 2007 (but we much better in 2008 in the playoffs than they had been the second half of the year). As I mentioned in last week’s post, Phillies’ pitching overall allowed runs at about the same rate in the second half as they did in the first half in ’08, but that was in large part because the starting pitchers performed so much better after the break than they had before it. By ERA, the Cubs had the best starting pitching in the NL in 2008. Chicago starters threw to a 3.75 ERA, making them the only team whose starters for the year threw to a lower ERA than the Phillies’ starters pitched to in the second half of 2008.

Carlos Ruiz won’t play in the World Baseball Classic.

This suggests Adam Eaton is not in the mix to win the fifth starter’s job and that the battle will be between Kendrick, Happ, Park and Carlos Carrasco. I would be surprised if Carrasco started the year in the rotation.

Bill Conlin writes about the Phillies battle for fifth starter, giving Park the best chance to win the job, followed by Happ, Carrasco, Kendrick and then Eaton. As long as there’s one lefty in the pen I see Kendrick and Park as the front runners ahead of Happ, with Carrasco as a long shot and Eaton as a really, really long shot.

Utley says his rehab is on schedule and hopes he will be ready for opening day.

This from the middle of last week projects the Phillies’ payroll for ’09.

There’s a new Phillies blog at www.truephan.blogspot.com


Home improvement

I wrote recently that while the Phillies were very good at both producing and preventing runs in 2008, when you compare what they did overall last season to the past few years, the change in the number of runs they allowed last year was much more dramatic than the change in the number of runs they scored.

In 2008, the Phillies allowed just 680 runs after allowing 821 runs the previous season.

Here’s how many runs they allowed, innings they pitched and runs they allowed per inning in each of the past two years:

Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 680 1449.7 .469
2007 821 1458.3 .563

So overall in 2008, the Phillies allowed an average of .469 runs every inning they pitched. In 2007, they had allowed .563 runs every inning they pitched. The difference between the two is .094 runs per inning.

I wanted to try to identify the pitching areas where the Phils improved the most from 2007 to 2008, so I took a look at some splits trying to find splits where the ’07 to ’08 difference for that split was larger than the difference between the ’07 and ’08 numbers overall. The splits that had a difference that was larger than the overall difference of .094 I put in bold.

 
Left-Right
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 vs left 297 581.7 .511
2007 vs left 330 538 .613
      Difference: 
.103

 
Left-Right
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 vs right 383 868 .441
2007 vs right 491 920.3 .534
      Difference: 
.092

A brief pause to emphasize exactly what we’re looking at. While the difference in the average number of runs the Phillies allowed against lefties was better than the difference in the average number of runs they allowed against righties, they arguably benefited more by improving against righties since they faced so many more of them. They allowed 108 fewer runs against righties and just 33 fewer against lefties.

Again, what I’m trying to do is find the areas where they improved the most, not the areas where the improvement was most important. In the case of the splits above, they improved more against lefties, even though the improvement against righties might have more important to the pitching staff overall.

 
Home-Away
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Home 338 748 .452
2007 Home 421 738 .570
      Difference: 
.119

 
Home-Away
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Away 342 701.7 .487
2007 Away 400 720.3 .555
      Difference: 
.068

And here are the Starter-Reliever splits:

 
Starter-Reliever
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Starter 489 966.7 .506
2007 Starter 536 938.3 .571
      Difference: 
.065

 
Starter-Reliever
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Reliever 191 483 .395
2007 Reliever 285 520 .548
      Difference: 

.153

And pre and post All-Star:

 
Pre/Post All-Star Break
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Pre
All-Star
403 860 .469
2007 Pre
All-Star
463 791.7 .585
      Difference: 
.116

 
Pre/Post All-Star Break
Year RA IP RA/Inning
2008 Post
All-Star
277 589.7 .470
2007 Post
All-Star
358 666.7 .537
      Difference: 
.067

On that last set of splits it’s interesting to note that by average number of runs allowed per inning, the Phillies were almost exactly as good before and after the All-Star break in 2008. They threw to a 3.90 ERA with a 1.36 ratio before the break and a 3.85 ERA with a 1.37 ratio after the break.

Eight splits, four of which are better than the overall rate at which the Phillies improved at preventing runs from ’07 to ’08, and four that are worse. In order of the most improvement to the least they go:

Split Difference
Reliever .153
Home .119
Pre All-Star .116
Vs left .103
Vs right .092
Away .068
Post All-Star .067
Starter .065

The Phillies continue their impressive series of deals with arbitration-eligible players.

They have agreed to a deal with Jayson Werth, believed to be two-years, $10 million. Chad Durbin’s deal is one-year, $1.65 million.

Victorino, one year, $3.125 million. Blanton one year $5.475 million.

That leaves Ryan Howard. He wants $18 million and the Phillies want to pay him $14 million.


2009 a third time

In mid-November, I took a guess at who would be on the Phillies roster when the 2009 season started. I did it again in mid-December. Since the post in mid-December:

  • It was announced that JC Romero will be suspended for the first fifty games of the 2009 season.
  • The Phillies signed 2B Marcus Giles to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

I still think there are nine guys on the team for opening day, including Pedro Feliz, recovering from back surgery, but not including Chase Ultey who is recovering from hip surgery:


Player

Position
1
Ryan Howard

1B
2
2B
3
Jimmy Rollins

SS
4
Pedro Feliz

3B
5
Shane Victorino

OF
6
Jayson Werth

OF
7
Raul Ibanez

OF
8
OF
9
Carlos Ruiz
C
10 C
11
Eric Bruntlett

UT
12
Greg Dobbs

3B/OF
13
UT
14

Utley is obviously on the team as well, but will probably start the season on the DL. That leaves four spots for position players, assuming the Phils carry 13 hitters and 12 pitchers to start the year.

Of the four remaining spots, one has to go to a second catcher behind Ruiz and one has to go to a fourth outfielder. Assuming Utley does not fill Utley’s spot, the third probably has to go someone who can play second base.

On the catcher spot, I still think Paulino is on the team. What I’m feeling a little less sure of as the days pass and the Phillies continue not to sign a right-handed hitter is that Paulino on the team makes it highly unlikely that Coste is not.

One of Geoff Jenkins or Matt Stairs takes the fourth outfielder spot. I still think it’s Jenkins and still think Stairs won’t be with the team when the season starts. Jenkins is far more useful as a defensive player and would be tougher to trade for the Phillies given his contract. I think there’s a chance the Phillies go into the season with four real outfielders on their team, with Bruntlett and maybe Dobbs getting some chances to fill in a little. If you’re going to have four real outfielders on the team I don’t think you have one of them be a 41-year-old Stairs just because I don’t think you can put him out in the field too often.

At second base if Utley’s not ready to go I see the candidates as Giles, Bruntlett, who’s on the team either way, and Jason Donald. The window where the Phillies would bring someone else in with a legitimate chance to compete for the position at this point seems like it’s at least closing. Bruntlett is the least exciting of those prospects. I’m going to guess that Giles proves to be the guy.

Chris Coste and Stairs appear to be the primary candidates to fill out the roster of the players currently on the team. Given how weak the Phillies are from the right side of the plate I see Coste as the winner if it comes down to those two. If Coste is still on the team I don’t think John Mayberry has much of a chance to win the spot. I think there’s a good chance that whoever takes the slot will prove to be the second-best right-handed hitter on the team behind Werth. The need for another right-handed hitter is huge, so my guess is still that the Phillies will bring in a right-handed hitter before the start of the season to be the thirteenth hitter.

Ten of the Phillies pitching spots are likely to be filled by these guys:


Player

Position
1
Cole Hamels (left)

SP
2
Brett Myers (right)

SP
3
Joe Blanton (right)

SP
4
Jamie Moyer (left)

SP
5
SP
6
Ryan Madson (right)
 RP
7
Chan Ho Park (right)

SP/RP
8
Clay Condrey (right)

RP
9
Scott Eyre (left)

RP
10
Chad Durbin (right)

RP
11  
RP
12
Brad Lidge (right)

CLOSER

Assuming the Phils carry 12 pitchers, that leaves two.

The battle for the fifth starter appears to include Chan Ho Park, JA Happ and Kyle Kendrick. Park is on the team either way, I think, it’s just a question of whether he’s pitching as part of the rotation or out of the pen.

The loss of Romero leaves the Phils with one lefty in the pen, Scott Eyre, and seems to give Happ’s chances of making the team a huge boost. I think one of the two remaining spots goes to Happ, either in the rotation or out of the pen.

Kendrick isn’t going to make the team to pitch out of the pen. So if Happ or Park does win the fifth starter job, it leaves a spot in the pen that would ideally go to a lefty. I don’t think the Phillies have one that fits the bill, though, so my guess is that it would probably be righties Mike Koplove and Gary Majewski as the front-runners batting for the final spot. Given the current options, though, it looks like the Phillies will go into spring training with an opportunity for a dark horse lefty to make the team as the second left-handed pitcher out of the pen.

There’s still a lot to be decided about how the Phillies pitching will round out, but at this point I’m going to guess it’s Happ (and Park) out of the pen and Kendrick as the fifth starter.

So here’s my overall guess at this point:

Hitters (13): Howard, Rollins, Feliz, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Bruntlett, Dobbs, Paulino, Jenkins, Giles and a right-handed hitter not currently with the team.

Pitchers (12): Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Kendrick, Madson, Happ, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Park, Lidge.

JC Romero will be allowed to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

Interview with Doug Glanville at We Should Be GMs.

Ad: TicketCity has tickets to the Super Bowl.


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